Posted on December 16, 2022

Biden Apologizes to Delegation of African Leaders for the ‘Unimaginable Cruelty’ of Slavery

Daily Mail, December 15, 2022

Joe Biden on Wednesday apologized for the ‘unimaginable cruelty’ of slavery, which he referred to as America’s ‘original sin’, and pledged $55 billion in investment to the continent.

Speaking during a gathering of almost all African leaders in Washington DC – the first since Barack Obama convened a summit in 2014 – Biden expressed regret for the past, but insisted: ‘The United States is all in on Africa’s future.’

During a White House dinner honoring African leaders and their spouses, Biden addressed what he called America’s ‘original sin’ – the enslavement of millions of people – and honored their descendants and the broader African diaspora community in the United States.

‘Our people lie at the heart of the deep and profound connection that forever binds Africa and the United States together,’ he said.

‘We remember the stolen men and women and children were brought to our shores in chains, subjected to unimaginable cruelty.’

Singer Gladys Knight later serenaded Biden and the visiting leaders with a performance in the White House State Dining Room.

The White House announced that $55 billion was being directed to Africa in the areas of health, climate change, trade and women’s initiatives – but the money was met with scorn by some.

Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, was asked earlier on Wednesday whether the 2014 summit yielded concrete results.

‘Well, at least we had a good meeting,’ he replied, to laughter from those assembled.

Biden’s outreach attempt was seen by many as a way of limiting the power of China, which has invested more in Africa than any other nation.

Beijing has held its own high-level meetings with African leaders every three years for over two decades.

Chinese trade with Africa is about four times that of the United States, and Beijing has become an important creditor by offering cheaper loans – often with opaque terms and collateral requirements – than Western lenders.

But, despite Biden’s overtures, many African leaders rejected the idea that they need to choose between the United States and China.

‘The fact that both countries have different levels of relations with African countries makes them equally important for Africa’s development,’ said Taye Atske Selassie Amde, Ethiopia’s U.N. ambassador.

‘However, it should be known each African country has the agency to determine their respective relationship and best interest.’

After his remarks at the summit, Biden viewed some of the World Cup semifinal match between Morocco – the first African nation to reach the semifinals – and France with Morocco’s prime minister, Aziz Akhannouch.

France won the match 2-0.

Before the dinner, Biden met leaders from Gabon, Liberia and others facing 2023 elections, for a discussion on elections and democratic principles.

‘Africa’s economic transition depends on good government, healthy populations, and reliable and affordable energy,’ he told the summit.

‘These things business seeks out when they’re looking to invest. They attract new opportunities, and they launch new partnerships.

‘And the United States is committed to supporting every aspect of Africa’s inclusive growth and creating the best possible environment for sustained commercial engagement between Africa companies and American companies.’

Thursday is to be dedicated to high-level discussions among leaders; Biden will open the day with a session on partnering with the African Union’s strategic vision for the continent.

Jill Biden hosted a program for spouses Wednesday morning at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, where she told the crowd ‘my hope is that the way we make each other feel will last beyond this summit.’

The summit is the largest international gathering in Washington since before the start of the pandemic.

Roads all around the city center were blocked off, and motorcades zoomed by gridlocked traffic elsewhere, ferrying some of the 49 invited heads of state and other leaders.

Africa, whose leaders often feel they’ve been given short shrift by leading economies, remains crucial to global powers because of its rapidly growing population, significant natural resources and sizable voting bloc in the United Nations.

But Biden invited several leaders who have questionable records on human rights, and democracy loomed large.

Equatorial Guinea was invited despite the State Department stating ‘serious doubts’ about last month’s election in the tiny Central African nation.

Opposition parties ‘made credible allegations of significant election-related irregularities, including documented instances of fraud, intimidation, and coercion,’ according to the department.

Election officials reported that President Teodoro Obiang´s ruling party won nearly 95% of the vote.

Zimbabwe, which has faced years of U.S. and Western sanctions, also was invited.

Tunisian President Kais Saied, who has been criticized by the United States for democratic backsliding, used an appearance before reporters with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday to offer a stout defense of actions he has taken, including suspending the parliament and firing judges.

‘The country was on the brink of civil war all over the country, so I had no other alternative but to save the Tunisian nation from undertaking any nasty action,’ Saied said.

Biden has promised U.S. support for a permanent Group of 20 seat for the African Union, and the appointment of a special representative to implement summit commitments.

In addition to China, talks also spotlighted what the U.S. has sees as malevolent Russian action on the continent.

The administration argued in its sub-Saharan strategy published earlier this year that Russia, the preeminent arms dealer in Africa, views the continent as a permissive environment for Kremlin-connected oligarchs and private military companies to focus on fomenting instability for their own strategic and financial benefit.

During an appearance with Blinken on Wendesday, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo expressed alarm about the presence of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group in Burkina Faso directly north of Ghana.

This follows a similar deployment of Wagner forces in Burkina Faso’s immediate neighbor Mali.

‘Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border,’ said Akufo-Addo, adding that he believed Burkinabe authorities had given the Wagner Group control of a mine for payment, and that the country’s prime minister had recently visited Moscow.